Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Lemon Balm

Lemon balm could easily take over the world yard.  I know because I have just been out there, pulling some up. Weeding out the tiny maple trees that have sprouted up in the flower bed. Re-mulching. Transplanting the celandine poppy from the Farmers Market. (I picked the right one, with buds not seedpods, and it is blooming now, that yellow poppy!)

Lemon balm is in the mint family and spreads itself and comes back. We had some actual spearmint in the back yard last summer, good for iced tea or mint juleps or mojitos, but where is it? Alas, only the lemon balm has returned.

A mojito is the Cuban highball. We like mojitos in our house due to specific and general attractions to 1) Cubans 2) James Bond movies 3) Halle Berry 4) lime and mint.

Later in June, I'll probably tell you about day lilies taking over the world yard.

After Memorial Day--love, family, remembrance--I am glad to enjoy this abundance of life after the rains, even if I pull some of it out.

And then smell like lemon Pledge.

Credits: Melissa officinalis (lemon balm)
Franz Eugen Koehler (public domain)

And now today's wonderful random (reading) coincidence: After I pull up the lemon balm and smell like lemon polish, I read, in Unless, by Carol Shields, "I won't even mention the swift, transitory reward of lemon spray wax." The kind of sentence that defies itself, in a passage about the common experience of comforting oneself with housework. (Or gardening.)

And on the next page, the main character, a translator, tells the writer she is translating that she might want to use the word "brain" instead of the word "heart," because "heart" is fey and passé and not-very-enlightened in a feminist way.

"But this is where I feel pain," says the writer. "And tenderness."

And that is what I must tell anyone who tells me not to use the word "heart" in a poem or that taking up gardening, and writing about it, is clichéd or risks sentimentality. So what? I take the risk.

Even if I am writing in my own language. Not in a language of the heart, being translated, which generally allows the trendy American translator to say the old-fashioned, straight on, wonderful thing...and get away with it, because it was written by someone from another country.

Oops, I sound a little bitter. Or bittersweet. But that's a plant of a different color.


Collagemama said...

Last year I set out a lemon balm plant in a big pot. It is going crazy, but is at least contained. Haven't the faintest idea what to do with the thing. My mint is flourishing in the same pot where I stuck it three years ago. Smells great, and Norton the rabbit likes to eat it for fresh bunny breath. And speaking of James Bond, all the preschoolers are playing a game about Kitty Galore, which is not the same as Pussy Galore.

seana graham said...

I have a friend who makes a mean mojito. But I only have them at her occasional parties.

I wish I found comfort in housekeeping. I would probably do it all the time.

Kathleen said...

Collagemama, all I can say is, "Keep it in the pot!" No, really, I'm glad you and the bunnies are enjoying it. I love it, too, the amazing lemon smell. But once those seed stalks go up, aauugghh!

Seana, I wish I (more often) remembered housekeeping could be a comfort...!